Why You Should Employ Older Adults to Serve Older Adults

With a shortage of nurses and an aging population that needs more health care, industries including Life Plan Communities are scrambling for staff. One possible group of candidates is the many older adults who still have a desire to work post-retirement. The national Health and Retirement Study shows that although retirement rates rise steeply at the Social Security eligibility ages of 62 and 65, many older adults remain in the workforce.

In short, older adults are a ready and willing segment of the population that has the drive to either re-enter or remain in the workforce in some capacity. And, who better at understanding the health care needs of older adults, than older adults? And now, research supports the notion that older adults in nursing positions (as well as other frontline positions in senior living) might be more likely to attend to and understand the emotional needs of the individuals they are serving than their younger counterparts.

To this point, a recent meta-analysis examined 195 studies that touched on at least one of four emotional dimensions of the older adult workforce: emotional perception of the self, emotional perception of others, emotional understanding, and emotional regulation. Researchers found that older workers functioned at a level equal to or greater than younger workers on most emotional competencies.

These results are promising for employers with respect to the aging workforce. Therefore, the researchers offered a list of recommendations for future research that they thought still needed to be done. Explicitly, they stated that research still doesn’t know if the job types that post-retirement adults tend to gravitate toward are different in their emotional requirement compared to the jobs they chose as younger adults. It may be the case that older adults gravitate toward different types of jobs in later life (e.g., ones that require emotional resilience in the aforementioned areas) due to an awareness that they are stronger in these areas than they were when they were younger.

Only time and future research will tell. In the meantime, senior living providers might consider that the solution for finding employees capable and willing to treat older adults, may be older adults themselves.


Doerwald F, Scheibe S, Zacher H, and van Ypren, NW. Emotional competencies across adulthood: State of knowledge and implications for the work context. Work, Aging, and Retirement (2016). DOI:10.1093/worker/waw013

Self-Fulfilling ProphecyHow Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years

Learn how older adults’ perceptions of aging—and their self-perceptions—can have serious effects on their health, behaviors, and even longevity.

Download FREE Copy

    Add insight to your inbox

    Join our email list to receive information about the latest research from Mather Institute. Just complete the form below to subscribe.

    Thank you!

    You are now subscribed to the email list.
    A confirmation has been sent to the email you provided.

    Continue to Website Share with a Friend